Margaret Delves (now Moore) Remembers
Recorded March 2006
I joined the ABC in 1950 and won a radio cadetship the following year.
I was working as a producer for the Education Section at Forbes Street Radio Studios. I knew the ABC were holding workshops for television, but I hadn’t applied. One day I was talking to Paul Maclay and he asked me why I haven’t applied – he said that they were looking for young people like me. So I put in a late application and was selected for the first of the workshops. From those workshops they selected people for more specialised workshops. (One of the people I worked in the workshops was Norman Heathrington who worked his puppets, the koala and the dingo. Later on he developed Mr. Squiggle.) Then they selected six people to go into a pool of producers to produce all shows except drama, which was considered a specialist job. This all happened in 1956.
The six people were myself and Kay Kinnane – the two women; the men were Arthur Wyndham, Ray Menmuir, John Buttle and George Trevare. I think the selection decisions were made by Mungo McCallum and Clem Semmler
George Trevare did Light Entertainment, Ray Menmuir produced Drama, Arthur Wyndham worked on OBs, John Buttle, Kay Kinnane and I did a variety of programs.
The Arcon was a very small studio inside a very large workshop. It had a tin roof and a concrete floor. It was freezing in winter and stifling in summer. I once appeared on television on a Christmas night in a special program with my singing group, the outside temperature was 105 degrees, and it was absolutely stifling under the TV lights. I think that record still remains. There was no water in the Arcon, no one thought to put a tap in when they built it, so we had to go outside to the toilets through the dirt and mud; when it was raining we had to walk across planks; for example, the make-up girls had to wash their sponges.
It was amazing what we actually fitted in to this tiny studio. I did a panel game called Find the Link in which we had five pairs of people connected with some unusual feature – we had no researchers in those days, we had to do it all ourselves. We had to fit in the studio the comperes desk with his two contestants, a panel of four local celebrities, the other eight contestants, and anyone they had brought along as audience, two cameras, floor manager – it was all crammed in. We had a guest celebrity each week, quite often an overseas visiting celebrity. I can remember we nearly had an international incident on one night – when the author Frank Clune who was on the panel, he had to guess the secret ambition of the celebrity, in this case the Irish tenor Patrick O’Hagen. He asked him if he wanted to be an undertaker in Northern Ireland! That really stirred things up. Other celebrities I can remember Dame Joan Hammond, in a beautiful evening dress, standing amongst the wood shavings outside the studio; she was smiling and waiting patiently. I had Larry Adler who was taken to the wrong TV station and I was waiting outside in the mud for him – about two minutes to air time. We had to rush him to the studio. We had quite a variety of celebrities each week. I also remember having Slapsy Maxi Rosenblum who took me dancing afterwards, and also Antoine of Paris who also took me dancing afterwards. I don’t know what they thought of the very primitive conditions in those days.
I did a great variety of programs, three or four a week: childrens session, womens programs, rural, panel games, music. We managed a great variety of sets in such a tiny space. When we did a womens program or childrens program it was very tight for the cameras as we had four or five sets. We had to be very careful not to overlap the sets for the subsequent session. Mary Rossi was the first compere of Women’s World. Other comperes were Mary Mackay, Gwen Plumb and Pat Lovell. I also did some OBs. I remember doing one from the ‘Mariposa’ and also one from Professor Waterhouse’s home and his camelia gardens.
My script assistant for most of those times was Jacqueline Hudson. The technical producers I remember well were Dave Tapp, Les Weldon, John Hicks and John Garton.
Some of the programs in the early days were put together by the department, and I just directed them. Others we built from scratch. For example "Find the Link’ was followed by ‘Whats in the Picture" (compered by Harry Dearth) and they were built from scratch. They wore me into the ground because I had no researcher. It was very hard work. I remember being on the phone at 5pm desperate to get someone to come for an 8pm live show.
I also vividly remember one rural program on snakes. Eric Worrell assured us that the python would go to sleep under the lights. Of course it didn’t and it came weaving down a tree towards the compare Bryan Todd. During the program Eric Worrell took out a death adder and put it on the table. It was fine on rehearsal, but when we were on air, it shot away over the edge of the table, and Eric grabbed it by the table and slapped it back on the table. He said afterwards he must have been out of his mind, to grab a death adder by its tail. Fortunately nothing happened at the time.
One night at the Arcon something broke down, and the technicians with great delight said let’s move into the big studio. It was due to be opened the following week. So we actually did a program there in Studio 21, before it was officially opened.
One of the programs that I remember from the Arcon was Mozart Duets with Geoffrey Chard and Marjorie Connelly. It was a beautiful program; we even managed to have a huge curving staircase. It was beautifully set up and the singing was beautiful. I remember it as one of the outstanding programs we managed to do in this tiny studio.
Later on I introduced Mr. Squiggle (Norman Heathrington) in the Children’s session. Mr. Squiggle became very popular and very famous. I produced Mr. Squiggle with Pat Lovell, and other members of the Children’s session were Diane Heath and Barbara Frawley.
When we started to work in the big studio we were able to expand a little, and I was able to include ballet in the schedule. When we moved to the big studio we had 3 cameras to work with. The increase in space was the big change. The sets became more adventurous and more artistic. We also started using camera cards – all the shots were planned. I would go home at night and re-live the program shot by shot, and not being able to go to sleep. We used to plan 6 weeks ahead. We had to have advance meetings with the designer and technical producer.
I was then producing a whole variety of programs – everything except drama - music, news, womens world, childrens, ballet, and even a sporting program on one Saturday afternoon.
We shared a small office in the ABC building on the corner of William and Forbes Streets. There were 5 of us in that small space - three producers and two script assistants. The producers were myself, George Trevare and Ken Cooke.
I certainly remember that well-known incident with Michael Charlton and Mary Rossi in Studio 21. There was an incredible series of mistakes. We had fifteen minutes between rehearsal and going to air. I had to fix things up on the studio floor. Meanwhile my script assistant was calling me via the intercom that we only had a few minutes left before going on air. Unfortunately, for some reason it was switched off, and I wasn’t hearing it. The floor manager was on the phone at the time – so he also wasn’t hearing the call from the control room. As I was going up the stairs to the control room I heard the voice from presentation saying "21 you are on air; you’re hot". The cameramen also were not ready to go on air – meanwhile I called out "ready Michael - fade up" But the floor was still not hearing us from the control room. So there was Michael chatting to Mary Rossi, and Mary looked like she was going to sit on Michael’s lap. So I said "fade to black". By then the studio floor staff could hear me so I called out again to fade up Michael. So when camera 2 was faded up and Michael was cued he said "What was I doing when you weren’t supposed to be looking?" He certainly carried off the incident very well. It was just a series of unbelievable mistakes. That didn’t happen again.
Later on I was also involved in producing the first program in Studio 22 when it was opened in 1959.
I married Bob Moore in 1959 and had to resign from my job. Those were the rules in the ABC in the 1950s. I came back as on a contract as a temporary employee and carried on my work as a television producer. However, I resigned again in 1960 before my first son was born. I came back after my son was born and worked on four ‘University of the Air’ programs. It was just to hectic and to busy to carry on my work in television, and I stopped work at that stage.
They were exhausting days - we had a large number of programs each week with all the variety. Our office was in William Street and travelling to Gore Hill was tiring – I didn’t have a car in those days, and had to travel to Gore Hill via public transport – that meant a bus to the city and a changeover to another bus from the city to Gore Hill. We could claim our bus fares back! I had to even carry a box-full of photos with me and the scripts as well. It was quite tiring for me. But they were very exciting days, and there was wonderful co-operation between producers, directors and technical staff. I missed those days very much when I finished. My years in television were 1957 to 1960.
When my eldest son was two I re-joined radio and worked on a variety of programs as a temporary employee. I did this until 1978.
Margaret Delves (now Moore) worked for the ABC from 1950 to 1978.
She started in ABC Radio and then worked in ABC television from 1957 to
1960. She then returned to radio work on a casual basis until 1978.